Monday, March 9, 2009

Sloppy Second Chances

I attended the Rangers game yesterday at the Garden against the Boston Bruins, a game that was highlighted by Sean Avery's return to Broadway. (As an aside, it's weird that the Garden is often referred to as "Broadway" in this context, given that it is actually located on 7th Avenue. I suppose "Broadway" is being used to refer to New York as a whole. I think this a synecdoche. Is that what that movie was about?) To review, Avery was acquired by the Rangers in the middle of the 2006-07 season and enjoyed a year and a half stay here, becoming a fan favorite because of his fiery personality and style of play. More importantly, the Rangers had a 51-23-16 record with him in the lineup, as opposed to an 8-10-3 record when he wasn't. Nonetheless, when he became a free agent this past summer, the Rangers were unable to match the contract offer that the Dallas Stars extended to him and let him walk away. Then, this happened. Personally, I think the way both the NHL and the Dallas organization reacted was a joke and a tremendous overreaction to what really wasn't that big of a deal. Still, the end result was Avery being released by Dallas and after a short while, finding his way back in blue.

I hope that if he didn't already realize it earlier, that after yesterday, Avery realizes that his decision to ever leave New York was a terrible mistake and one that he will never make again. Because what I witnessed and engaged in yesterday was an absolute love affair between Rangers' fans and this guy. Chants of "A-ve-ry" filled the arena the first time he stepped on the ice and every time he made a play from then on. As a player that is maligned for his personality and his tactics basically everywhere else in the league, yet admired for it here, it's hard to imagine that he could play anywhere else at this point.

Practically speaking, he gives them depth at the forward position and a much needed edge and that has been sorely lacking all season. The corollary to that is that in addition to the penalties he actually commits (and they aren't as infrequent as we would like), because of his reputation, refs will often whistle him for penalties that they would normally let go (see, the interference penalty he was called for in the waning minutes of yesterday's game) and overlook arguably cheap shots that players take against him. It's all part of the equation with this guy. Here's hoping that with Avery back on board (in addition to recently acquired Nik Antropov and Derrick Morris) Rangers fans will get to enjoy more days like yesterday going forward.

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